Attending conferences are fantastic for your career because you get to learn about industry trends, gain new skills and make networking connections. Not to mention you will probably take home some great swag.
Besides bringing business cards, there are other tried-and-true strategies for planning your upcoming event. Let’s face it conferences can be overwhelming, but knowing the 5 things to do before a conference can help you get the most out of your conference and set you on a path to success.
Before You Attend
Before you even set foot at the conference, you need to prepare. Let me repeat that; you need to prepare! Most of the work for attending a conference is done before you go.
Once you are at the conference there is no time to stop and think, so make sure to keep in mind these first steps.
5 Things to Do Before Attending a Conference
1. Set Your Goals
The most important question to ask and answer is: What are you trying to achieve out of attending the conference? You or your company has paid for you to attend, so make sure you are meeting those goals.
It could be that your goal is to learn about a new product and trends and bring that information back to share with your team. Many people attend a conference to meet as many prospects as possible or network for their career. Whatever your goal is, make sure that it is clearly defined amongst yourself as well as the leadership team that sent you.
2. Review the Agenda and Register Early
This step is crucial. At many events I have attended and scheduled for others the hotels can sell out very early. Make sure you are on top of your travel arrangements as well as your agenda.
Now that you know your primary goal, you can use the agenda to strategically plan what sessions you would like to attend. Make sure to attend sessions that fulfill either your content goals, educational goal or the goal of networking.
If your goal is to meet certain people in a profession, then smaller sessions might be your target. While highly tactical session might interest those who are in a niche as well as further you in your profession.
Additionally, make sure to take note of the exhibitors that are attending. If you are exhibiting with a company, are there competitors that you need to take note of? A trick of the trade that I have used many times is to pick up competitor’s swag, marketing materials, and scope out the competitions booth.
Once you have determined what sessions you would like to attend, register for the sessions as early as possible. You don’t want to be stuck registering for sessions or in line while others are off to the races.
3. Orient Yourself
Familiarize yourself with the conference space and the area around the conference the day before, if you can. Don’t get lost wandering around if you don’t have to.
Orient yourself with the area. Look up where the best restaurants and bars are as well as any events that you are attending. Knowing the best places to go is very helpful when you have met a group who is looking for a place to eat or relax.
Read the exhibitors and attendee list, if it’s available, so you can familiarize yourself with who you want to talk to.
4. Gain Momentum
There’s no better way to start a show than having key meetings set up with those you wanted to talk to. This way you can ensure that you’ll walk away from the event building on the relationships you already have.
The best way to gain momentum is by thinking about the people you want to connect with – a wish list. Then before the show, send them either an email, an invite or a compelling offer to set up a meeting with you. Don’t count on simply running into people at a show, make sure they know that you are attending.
Many conferences will have social media pages that you can engage with. Social pages are a great way to connect with people before the show, build relationships and make new friends.
5. Prep For Travel
You will probably be checking your work email from time to time during a conference, but for the most part, you are not going to be available. Make sure to schedule your out-of-office reply before you leave.
Practice your elevator pitch for your company and yourself. You are going to be doing this over and over, so you want it to be polished before you travel.
Conferences are multi-day affairs, so you don’t want to forget anything or be stressed out. Make sure to pack these essential items:
- Phone and laptop and chargers. Also, ensure that these items are with you at the show.
- Business cards. You might not use cards much in the rest of your work life, but you’ll go through dozens at a conference.
- Bring the materials you need for demos or networking. Make sure to pack things like pens, notepads, tablets or anything else that you are going to use for notes or demos.
- Have a system for recording and remembering people you met.
- Wear comfortable shoes. You’re going to be walking and standing a lot, probably a lot more than you think. Make sure you have shoes that don’t rub or hurt.
- Bring snacks in your purse or briefcase. You don’t want to be caught off guard with a tummy that is grumbling. Make sure to pack a few healthy snacks with you in case you get caught up at lunch or just need some energy.